Torchlight 2 is a hack-and-slash action RPG from Runic Games, a sequel to their impressive 2009 effort, Torchlight. What did we think of it?
Whenever I’ve told friends I was playing Torchlight 2 I usually got the response “what’s that?” and I always replied with “it’s like Diablo but cheaper and better.” Admittedly, my knowledge of Diablo is largely second-hand, but as far as I can make out, Diablo III has no offline option, has a real money auction house and doesn’t have pets. Torchlight 2 in comparison has an offline single player option, no way to pay for power, and about a dozen different pets to choose from. On top of that, there is some appearance-based character customisation, full modding support (via Steam workshop) and I picked it up for less than £15/$20 on Steam, with the original Torchlight thrown in for free. By contrast, if I bought Diablo 3 off Amazon now, four months after its release, I’d be looking at paying over £30 /$55.
Let’s move on from the inevitable Diablo comparisons. What works in Torchlight 2? What doesn’t? And, most importantly, is it fun?
The four classes are the Outlander, the Embermage, the Berserker and the Engineer. Each has their own skill tree with three different types of abilities to put points into. For the Embermage, the categories were Inferno, Frost and Storm magic. Inferno was mostly about straight-up fire damage, frost more about control, and storm about applying random conditions whilst throwing lightning around. There’s no real need to only invest in one of the three categories, but each one seems to lend itself to different playstyles. I enjoyed the chaotic nature of storm magic, so spent all of my points on it, just to see if it was a viable way of playing. Skills came in two types, active and passive. Active skills included lightning storms, short range lightning bolts that could stun, and an area-of-effect spell that caused enemies to release healing bolts for me and my allies when they were killed. The Embermage’s three passive skills are: additional damage when enemies become shocked, the chance for enemies to be teleported away when attacking at close range, and the ability to apply random bizarre effects to enemies when using a wand.
Every class can wield every weapon, but each classes’ passives tend to only apply when using certain weapon types.
Each time a new level is reached, points can be used to improve and unlock skills and be put in a mostly standard RPG attribute system of strength, dexterity, focus and vitality – nothing new here.
Another important Torchlight 2 mechanic is the charge bar, a bar that gradually fills during combat and grants bonuses as and when it fills. This can easily turn the tide of a battle – for example, Embermages get fifteen seconds of ‘concentration’ when the charge bar is full, enabling them to cast spells without using up mana, whilst giving an extra damage boost.
Returning from Torchlight 1 is the spell system. Spells drop randomly from mobs and from within chests, and can be learnt by any class. They range from fireballs to armor boosts to heals. Four can be equipped at any one time.
The final and arguably most important gameplay mechanic is your character’s trusty pet. Pets generally have more health than you, so they can soak up damage while you’re busy dishing out spells. They can also learn spells themselves – I found it useful to teach my pet any active spells I found, so I could concentrate on casting my class abilities. Feeding pets fish temporarily transforms them into different creatures, giving them access to new skills and stats. Finally, pets act as a second inventory, like in Torchlight 1. You can send them back to town to sell your stuff, but this time around, you can also give them a shopping list of potions and scrolls to buy too.
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